A range of diseases can occur in the jaw
Jawbone infection (dental abscesses)
Jawbone infections, also called dental abscesses, occur when a dental cavity remains untreated and the tooth pulp becomes infected due to a build-up of bacteria. If left untreated, this infection can spread to the jaw and cause even more systemic health issues.
Symptoms may include:
- pain in the mouth or jaw
- pus draining from the area
If any of these symptoms occur, contact your National Dental Care practice immediately. Immediate treatment involves removing the source of infection, usually by root canal therapy. Antibiotics may be useful in most severe cases, but are rarely needed for tooth infections. In more severe cases, a tooth may need to be removed.
Osteonecrosis of the jaw occurs when the jaw bone loses its blood supply. This may happen following tooth removal.
Risk of osteonecrosis is higher when there is prior damage to the bone, such as during radiation therapy or after certain osteoporosis treatment. Consult your National Dental Care dentist who will be happy to discuss restorative options with you.
Temporomandibular joint disorder
Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) are another common type of jaw-related pain. TMJ stands for the temporomandibular joint, which describes the two joints near the front of your ears where the upper and lower jaws connect. Damage occurs to the TMJ when the disc in the joint, the cushioning cartilage, slips out of position. You may not be able to open your mouth very wide without pain or clicking noises.
Usually this is the result of clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth over a long time, usually at night. Direct damage to the joint can also be caused from certain injuries or arthritis. TMJ dysfunction or TMJ disorders such as this can cause facial pain, headaches, dizziness, and neck and back pain.
You may be at risk of a TMJ disorder if you:
- find yourself waking up with sore/stiff muscles around your jaw
- have frequent headaches or neck/backaches
- clench your jaw often due to stress
- find it difficult to open your mouth wide to eat or yawn
- suffer from arthritis
- or have sensitive or broken teeth
TMJ disorders are also associated with disturbed sleep patterns and difficulty breathing at night or obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). Treatment for TMJ disorders will vary greatly, depending on your level of discomfort and the root cause. It is best to consult your National Dental Care dentist, who will examine you and suggest the best form of treatment for you.
Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding with a surgical or invasive procedure, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.